To cook Indian food, we need a few basic spices in our pantry. You can eventually build a large spice collection but the list below is a good start:

Basic spices

Rai (Mustard Seeds)

Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black. Mustard seeds are used as seasoning in many Indian dishes. The right way of enhancing mustard seed flavor is to make sure that the oil is hot, causing the seeds to pop. Its important to cover the popping seeds, as they can splatter in the oil.


Jeera (Cumin seeds)

Cumin is a flowering plant, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds (known as Jeera) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form. Jeera is an important seasoning ingredient in Indian cooking. It is also known for its ability to improve digestion.


Dhania (Coriander seeds)

Coriander, also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania, is a herb that is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most commonly used in Indian cooking.


Hing (Asafoetida)

This spice has a strong smell, and typically works as a flavor enhancer and, used along with turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine, particularly in lentil curries, such as dal, as well as in numerous vegetable dishes . It is especially widely used in Karnataka cuisine, Gujarati cuisine and Tamilnadu cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian, and is often used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food.


Spices for heat


Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree that is native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia. They are used as a spice in cuisines all over the world. Cloves are also used as painkillers for dental emergencies due to their numbing effect, and are prominent in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and western herbalism and dentistry.



Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees native to Sri Lanka, and are used in both sweet and savoury foods. Besides its use in the preparation of chocolate (Mexico), it is also used in many dessert recipes, such as apple pie, doughnuts, and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. It is also used in sambar powder or BisiBelebath powder in Karnataka, which gives it a rich aroma and a unique taste.


Star annise

Star anise is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavor, obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of a medium-sized native evergreen tree of northeast Vietnam and southwest China. The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening. Besides its use as a flavour enhancer of meat, it is used as a spice in preparation of biryani all over the Indian subcontinent. It is also a major component of garam masala, and is also used as an ingredient of masala chai. Star annise is also known to have many medicinal values and chewed after meals to aid digestion.


Black pepper

Everyone knows black pepper, it is actually a fruit called peppercorn which is dried and used as spice and seasoning. It is also very good for relieving cold and cough symptoms.


Bay leaves

Bay leaf  is an aromatic leaf of Bay tree. The fragrance of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste.


Haldi (turmeric powder)

Haldi is a natural antiseptic and is widely used in Indian cooking. Mostly used in its powdered form. This is what gives the curry its yellow colour.


Red chilli powder

The spicy red chili peppers or cayenne peppers are dried and powdered, a pinch of this can add a kick to any dish.


Garam masala / Curry powder

Garam masala is a blend of different spices ground together to form a medley that can be readily used for cooking.

Categories: Spices

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